Category Archives: Discussions

Adventure Genre Discussion – Political Thrillers & Espionage

Political Thrillers & Espionage

Camel ClubThe Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) met Tuesday, April 3, at the John Curtis Free Library to discuss two subgenres of Adventure: Political Thrillers and Espionage.

The benchmark title was The Camel Club by David Baldacci, first in a five-book series featuring Oliver Stone.

We talked about the following supplemental readings, focusing on key elements and appeal factors for Political Thrillers and Espionage:

  • Hannon, Michael. Blood, Bedlam, Bullets, and Bad Guys. Chapter 1, pp. 1-2
  • Hannon, Michael. Blood, Bedlam, Bullets, and Bad Guys. Chapter 9, pp. 185-86
  • McArdle, Megan M. The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Blends, pp. xix-3}
  • Saricks, Joyce. The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed., pp. 71-87

Key elements

Political Thrillers

  • Often convoluted, plot involves the government and secrets worth killing for
  • Pacing is fast, compelling; storyline often cinematic
  • Identifiable hero, usually a strong, handsome, and an extremely capable leader

Espionage

  • Plots usually center around international espionage activities, secrecy
  • Often feature exotic locales and/or have dark, mysterious tone/atmosphere
  • Traditional/classic spy novels may appeal to intellect as well as adrenaline readers

“The size and diversity of the Thriller genre make it difficult to define in a straightforward fashion. Basically this genre focuses on a particular profession – espionage, medicine, or the law, for example – and tells an action-packed story that reveals the intricacies of that profession and the potential dangers faced by those involved in it. The details supplied, their authenticity and their scope, are key to reader satisfaction. Although important to a good story, the character of the hero is generally secondary to the action and detail. Readers can easily distinguish the good from the bad among these stereotypical characters”   – Joyce Saricks, The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. (Chapter 5: Thrillers)

We talked about whether historical adventure had to be about war, and decided that, although it often may be set during times of war, it didn’t need to be, but there needed to be some sort of danger, a visible enemy, and some amount of fighting involved.

We discussed The Camel Club by David Baldacci, our benchmark title, in reader’s advisory terms:

  • Stakes are high for hero (ensemble) – life and death
  • Frame of Washington, DC and environs, adds to sense of realism
  • Storyline cinematic, premise plausible enough to make sense
  • Camel Club characters are quirky outsiders, on the fringe
  • Terrorist characters given some backstory and nuance, but still bad guys
  • Clues are given, but reader knows more than main characters (suspense)
  • Ends justify the means – common theme in Adventure fiction
  • Characters are developed for series, two strong women characters

Second titles will be posted soon; it’s OK to submit yours still, if you forgot!

Second titles we learned about in terms of reader’s advisory appeal factors – frame, tone, pacing, plot/storyline, characters – included a female adventure author we didn’t have on our earlier list – K. J. Howe:

The Freedom Broker by K.J. Howe
The World at Night by Alan Furst
A Hero of France by Alan Furst
Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming
Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn
The Singularity Race by Mark de Castrique

Please register online for the Thursday, June 14th meeting, 10am-12pm, at the Queset House (beside the Ames Free Library) in Easton to talk about Military Thrillers and Nonfiction Adventure. The benchmark title will be Ice Station by Matthew Reilly.

New members are always welcome to jump in at any point in the year, even the very last meeting of the 2017-18 season. We will also discuss possible genres for next year’s genre study, so feel free to bring or send your input!

By the way, the next RUSA Codes Convo is on Tuesday, April 24. It’s a LOT of email in one day, but there’s usually a ton of useful RA tips shared:

CODES Conversations: RA 101
April 24, 2018 10am-6pm EST
What are the key ideas, practices and sources everyone should be learning
about as they begin to do readers’ advisory work? Join us and special guest
moderators Joyce Saricks and Neal Wyatt and bring your questions, suggestions
and advice!

CODES Conversations are focused electronic conversations on issues facing
collection development and readers’ advisory librarians—or anyone interested
in those areas. The conversations are open to all who wish to participate (or
lurk)!

More info

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Adventure Genre Discussion – Feb. 7, 2018

cover imageThe Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) met Wed., Feb. 7, at the Attleboro Public Library to discuss Historical Adventure, a subgenre of Adventure fiction.

The benchmark title was The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, first in a ongoing series. (The tenth book in The Last Kingdom series came out in 2016.)

First we talked about characteristics of Historical Adventure, based on our supplemental readings:

  • Hannon, Michael. Blood, Bedlam, Bullets, and Bad Guys. Introduction, pp. ix–xii
  • Hannon, Michael. Blood, Bedlam, Bullets, and Bad Guys. Chapter 11: On the High Seas, pp. 217-18
  • Hooper, Brad. Read On…Historical Fiction, Action-Packed Adventures, pp. 85-89

We also used the Adventure chapter from The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. by Joyce Saricks, which we used in December’s meeting, and which we will continue to refer to throughout our study of the Adventure genre.

We discussed key elements of historical adventure fiction:

  • Often slower pace, longer time span than in contemporary adventure
  • Still a story focused on life-and-death situations, often a mission
  • Usually a satisfying ending with order restored in some way
    (“Romance for men”)
  • Identifiable hero, likeable and extremely capable, often has a sidekick (Bromance)
  • Often continuing series with same characters
  • Detailed battle scenes, realistic military/historical period setting
  • Often have historical notes at the end, as well as maps, ship plans
  • Tone often dark, due to danger, but humor can lighten tone
  • Language usually colorful, often with military jargon, makes reader feel knowledgeable. Pronunciation guides are common.

“The adventure/suspense story is probably the oldest of human kind’s fiction genres and can be traced back to tales that prehistoric people told around a flickering fire or scratched with charcoal onto cave walls. The archetypal hero who must surmount overwhelming obstacles is not only the basis of much of our earliest literature, he (and now she) is also the foundation of all modern adventure stories. The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, Beowulf, the Song of Roland, Shakespeare’s tragedies are gripping adventure stories as well as classic literature”                    – Blood, Bedlam, Bullets, and Bad Guys

We talked about whether historical adventure had to be about war, and decided that, although it often may be set during times of war, it didn’t need to be, but there needed to be some sort of danger, a visible enemy, and some amount of fighting involved.

We discussed The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, our benchmark title, in reader’s advisory terms:

  • Very accurately described battle scenes, not as much humor as the authors Sharpe series
  • Historical note to say where author departed from historical fact
  • Lots of dialogue helps keep pace up, though story spans years
  • First-person point of view lends immediacy and lightens the tone
  • Were there exotic locales, foreign countries?
  • Military strategy is important to the story
  • Main character sees events on both sides, English and Danish
  • Characters are fully developed, some strong women
  • There is a villain character, but the shifting loyalties of main character add subtlety and depth to the story, which is set in a period of time when nationality was more fluid than it is now

Second titles will be posted soon; it’s OK to submit yours still, if you forgot! We had a lot of overlap in our second titles in the Historical Adventure subgenre this month, but the ones we discussed in terms of reader’s advisory appeal factors – frame, tone, pacing, plot/storyline, characters – included the following:

Brethren by Robin Young
Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure by Michael Chabon (2)
Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
(audiobook highly recommended)
River God by Wilbur Smith
The Sea Witch by Helen Hollick (2)

Please register online for the Tuesday, April 3rd meeting, 10am-12pm, at the Hanover Public Library to talk about Espionage/Political Thrillers. (Please note location change!) The benchmark title will be The Camel Club by David Baldacci.

New members are always welcome to jump in at any point in the year.

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